surgery-x750The number of surgeries performed around the world continues to grow at a steady pace but this is happening more often in the developed world. Perhaps this makes sense: health care—and money—is more plentiful, regulated in the First World. But researchers are learning that there is a tremendous gap in surgical care between rich and poor nations.

According to a recent study from the Stanford University School of Medicine, the annual number of operations rose, between 2004 and 2012, by 38 percent (from 224 million to approximately 313 million). In relatively poor countries, surgical care increased 114 percent.

On the surface, this might seem like a wonderful statistic but developing countries still only account for about 6.3 percent of surgical procedures annually. More importantly, though, developing populations account for 37 percent of the global population.

As such, Stanford University of Medicine assistant professor of surgery, Thomas Weiser, notes, “Clearly there are huge disparities in the provision of surgery around the world and this points to an unmet need for surgical and anaesthetic care in many countries.”

Weiser goes on to advise: “Surgical care can be life-saving and also helps prevent long-term disability due to injuries, infections, cancers, and maternal conditions. In addition to the disparities in access, the safety of surgical care is of utmost concern, in light of the huge and growing volume of operations being performed annually around the world.”

In regards to the study, WHO Emergency Surgical Programme coordinator, Dr. Walter Johnson, comments that the study suggests even though more countries are providing more care, per capita, than ten years ago, other emergency services might not be available for most of the people in impoverished nations.

The most frequently performed operation in the poorest countries was cesarean section, accounting for 30 percent of all operations in these nations.

Dr. Johnson continues, “The international donor community has traditionally focused on infectious diseases. But now the shift in the burden of disease is from communicable diseases to noncommunicable conditions and injuries. These are, of course, conditions that require more surgical procedures.”